WWF's Weak Warming Foundations

All hail the WWF’s “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner – A European update on climate science” report, released “just in time” as the EU discussed ratification of the economy-busting, climatically-inconsequential 20-20-20 Plan?

Not so fast.

Report compiler Dr Tina Tin sets out to show that “important aspects of climate change seem to have been underestimated and the impacts are being felt sooner“, in order to justify the WWF’s call for “an emission reduction target of at least 30% below 1990 levels by 2020” in the EU.

What does Dr Tin mention to support her case?

(a) “The Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice 30 or more years ahead of the projections presented in the Fourth Assessment Report“.

This is a rather weak point. All it takes to refute it is a couple of years of increasing sea ice. Note that 2008’s minimum was higher than 2007’s, and the recovery in the past month has been impressive.

(b) “Floating tide-water glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula are losing ice faster and are making a greater contribution to global sea level rise than reported“.

It is another weak argument. The Antarctic Peninsula is a peculiar place where lots is happening that is not happening anywhere else. The more the Peninsula behaves “strangely”, the less it may mean for the warming of the whole planet.

(c) “Since 1990, global sea level has been rising one and a half times faster than forecast in…2001“.

This is a simplification. As reported in Accuweather’s Global Warming blog, the rise has been “far from uniform” and great parts of the ocean have seen almost no change at all.

(d) “Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released as a consequence of human activity have been accelerating“.

This is no change in climate per se. And with CO2’s intrinsic global warming effect growing with the logarithm of the concentration, it may be quite inconsequential.

(e) “A re-examination of the climate impacts reported in the Fourth Assessment Report indicates that 80% cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are needed by 2050 to keep global average temperature rise below 2°C“.

That’s where Dr Tin starts with the abuse of future predictions. These have by definition little to do with any climate change impact being already felt. For the same reason, I’ll skip most of the “Climate Change Tomorrow” list (everything that doesn’t deal with the past and present).

(g) “The analysis of 542 plant and 19 animal species across 19 European countries demonstrates without doubt that the timing of activities of plants and animals, especially in spring and in autumn […] have changed following national warming trends (Menzel et al 2006)“.

This is a an incorrect statement built upon a less-than-solid paper. Menzel at al can be read in full here. They write: “The pattern of observed change in spring efficiently matches measured national warming across 19 European countries“. Note: in spring. Also “The autumn signal was vague“.

(I won’t even start dealing with Menzel et al’s underlying issue, their assumption that changes are always linear)


The impression is that in “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner – A European update on climate science” report, as in much else concerning climate change and global warming, the politics has preceded the science.

That’d be perfectly fine, and I won’t ask to curtail WWF’s political activities: but why oh why can’t they just trying to be more sincere in their aims? Do they have such a weak political (and economical, and ethical) case for CO2 emission reduction, they are forced to write quasi-scientific reports?

UPDATE: read also on Climate Skeptic, “Global Warming … Accelerating?